Author Archives: Margo Mackay

Advance Care Planning: Lorraine’s story

affairs_TOPIC

We are working with our colleagues at Strathcarron Hospice to develop a resource for Advance Care Planning which should be available early in 2018.

This poster illustrates how we are developing the resource:
2017 TM and Advance Care Planning

During the pilot phase our colleague Sally Boa (Head of Palliative Care Education, Research and Practice Development at Strathcarron Hospice) received the following moving story from Lorraine. We are extremely grateful to Lorraine for allowing us to publish it.

 “My name is Lorraine and I am a carer for my husband who has cancer and is a palliative care patient.

I have been involved as a volunteer with Susan at Strathcarron Hospice since February this year. This was a group formed from the community put together by volunteers to get their help and opinions of thinking ahead and to understand what a loved one wants for their future and awareness of information and services available to people caring for someone with a long term illness/palliative care, but most importantly how best to get a loved one to open up and talk about their feelings and what they want for their future and arrangements.

Personally it has been for me interesting, draining and emotional at times, but this journey I have been on has made me think and realise that these are very important issues that need to be talked about with my husband and family.

I had tried to get Gordon to talk about these things, but it was difficult to bring the subject up. He just changed the subject. I tried leaving booklets lying on the table when I was out, but if he did look at them he never mentioned it.

Thinking about death is very emotional and stressful subject to talk to someone you love about. I know how I felt with these thoughts going round in my head and it was not nice. As for our two sons they seem to have accepted the situation now, although it was difficult. We have never lied to them and tried to explain what’s going on, but finding the right words isn’t easy. Moving to acceptance instead of denial is very, very hard on everyone.

I also have been involved with trying out Communication Cards (Talking Mats) which had been designed to help people who have difficulties in communicating. I went to the Hospice where I was asked some questions that I answered using the cards. I answered using the cards under the guidance of “feelings” I was surprised to find I had more positive replies than any of the others, I feel the cards would help people show their feeling better. I was asked if Gordon would be interested in doing the same. Sally emailed me a photo of my cards/answers, and I showed it to Gordon and I took the chance and asked him and he said yes. Sally came to the house and they did the task using the cards with no input from me {I kept very quiet ha ha}. The benefit Gordon got from this was really good. He was quite surprised to find he had placed more cards on the positive side as well his thoughts and feelings and he felt good about actually seeing that in front of him.

When Sally left I thought to myself this is my chance to approach the subject but again deep down I was scared as the last thing I wanted was to upset him.

I approached the subject with Gordon…. how about we continue chatting about what he wanted for his future and arrangements etc. I put it to him he knew what I was involved with for months with Susan and Mandy and that he was always interested to hear what we were doing but the truth was I still didn’t know what he wanted, I only knew he wanted a church service and burial. We sat at the table and talked about everything, I took notes what Gordon was telling me he wanted about everything.

I am an awful one for my Diary/ Journals I recorded everything we discussed finances, lawyer, wills, his wishes, Hymns he wanted, service at the graveside,what was to be given to family etc. in fact everything we could think of is now recorded and in one place. Both our boys will be told and where to find it. Jokingly to make it a bit light hearted I said I could go first you know, so we both took the opportunity to write and record all my wishes which is listed in the same journal.

Afterwards I really don’t know how to explain it but I felt a tonne weight off my shoulders, I now know everything I need to know.

More important for me I’ll never need to discuss it again with Gordon the book will be locked away safe and we can get on with our lives.

Please try and find the right time to talk, it’s very important and it will stop a lot of stress and emotional turmoil at what would be a very sad time for all.”

 

 

Listening to our customers

listening is a patient safety issue

We are always very grateful for comments and suggestions about our resources, so have been listening to our customers and working to upgrade the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource and the 4 digital resources.

There are several additions which apply to both the original and the digital versions of Health and Well-being.

  • Originally we had asked our artist not to put clothes on the characters to try to make them culturally neutral but following a number of comments – (in particular the bare hairdresser who caused much amusement!) – our artist has added clothes on those symbols where the character was obviously naked.

hairdresser

  • Next we have included additional relevant symbols and altered others to make the resource more comprehensive.

making_hot_drinksfaith_leader
Our App developer has also been working to incorporate all of the above features into the digital version. He has included a more comprehensive list of wording for the top scale. (Click on the image to enlarge)

top scales
He has also added a feature which lets you toggle the wording for the top scale on and off; he has sorted the split words under the symbols and he has improved how the final record of the Talking Mats is displayed in the email sent.

Finally we are delighted to announce that our 4 main Talking Mats resources have been developed in German for the Digital version in collaboration with Professor Norina Lauer at the University of Idstein. All 4 resources – Health and Well-being, Children and Young People, Eating and Drinking and Social Care will all be available on the App by clicking on the German flag in the opening page.

The German version is not available in the original hard copy but you can order the resources with no words to allow you to add your own.

The upgrades to the digital will happen automatically in the next few weeks at no extra cost and if you would like the hard copy sets to upgrade your original resources, you can order them from us at a reduced cost. 2017-18 Additional Symbols Post Training Order form

Thanks again for your feedback – keep the comments coming!

Talking Mats collaborative ‘wall’

wall

Thanks to Rosie Murray for this great blog describing how she used a collaborative Talking Mats ‘Wall’ to help students comment on how different activities inside and outside college make them feel.

As a student, I trained in the Talking Mats approach, after finding it incredibly useful in clinical placements. I am now a speech and language therapist at St John’s College in Brighton. This is a college for young adults with autism, learning disabilities and SEBD. Our learners have a wide range of communicative needs and cognitive abilities. I was approached by our nursing team in the lead up to world mental health awareness day, as they were organising a ‘tea and talk’ session for our learners of all abilities.

We organised a range of activities, such as symbolised conversation starters. However, we felt we needed something to allow our less verbal learners to make their voices heard. I thought back to my training, and remembered Joan Murphy talking about large, collaborative Talking Mats – or ‘talking walls’. We discussed this idea, and felt it would be a great way for students to feedback on how different activities inside and outside college make them feel.
It took some considerable planning. Due to the emotional needs of some students, our top scale required us to avoid words that were too upsetting for individuals. In the end we settled on ‘good’ (with a widget ‘calm’ symbol) and ‘worried’. We also wanted it to provide a genuine opinion, so although we considered including activity options that were clearly negative, e.g. ‘fire alarms’, we took the opportunity to show our learners that we all have different opinions on things, and that this is good. We hypothesised that because of this, learners would be skewed towards giving positive opinions, and this informed the order of presentation of the top scale and the activities themselves.
On the day, we had 15 different activities to give an opinion on, each with different border colours for differentiation, and of course blank tiles so our learner’s could come with their own activities. Students were encouraged to write their name on the back of a chosen activity, and a consistent script was used to present the wall to each learner. Makaton signing was used alongside the script to support understanding.

Rosie Murray's wall
Everyone loved the wall!

Learners of all abilities offered their opinion, and it generated discussion between learners of differing abilities. It signposted staff to particular likes and dislikes of learners, and showcased the power of talking mats to all staff. For example, one of our learners is a cheerful young man, who uses minimal verbal utterances to communicate. When the board was presented to him, he very clearly selected ‘talking’ as an activity, and clearly indicated that it makes him worried. This has allowed us to reflect as a staff team about how we can support him to communicate with minimal anxiety.
Learners too took away some important lessons from using the wall. They saw that while some activities are VERY popular (e.g. computer time), some are quite polarised, e.g. animals. This highlights the important issue of mutually respecting each others differences. Since the event, staff have discussed ideas they have on how to utilise this tool. We are considering how we could use Talking Mats as a tool in our peer mentoring sessions between learners of higher and lower verbal ability, as we feel it would be beneficial for both mentee and mentor. We are looking forward to using Talking Mats as a flexible tool for the college in the future.

Please let us know of any other innovative ways of using Talking Mats!

What really matters

rabbit

This story, which highlights the importance of finding out what really matters to people, was shared by one of the staff attending the second day of an enhanced Talking Mats training course. She works in a NHS facility for people assessed as needing hospital-based continuing care.

I was working with Bill (not his real name) who is a man with severe cognitive impairment resulting from a head injury and stroke. He was very angry and agitated and we couldn’t work out what was wrong. At times he was physically aggressive when we couldn’t understand him.

One day he drew a picture of a rabbit and was very insistent about it but we didn’t know what it meant. We contacted his sister about him being angry about a rabbit. She asked around to other family members and friends but no one could think what it meant.

Bill continued to draw a rabbit and then other pictures including money and TV  so I made an improvised Talking Mat using his drawings as the options and began trying to find out what really mattered to him. I gradually connected that the TV was about about programme called Dickinson’s Real Deal (a TV programme about antiques) and that in the past Bill had had an ornament of a rabbit which he thought was worth a lot of money.

We phoned his sister again about a possible rabbit ornament and she then remembered that he had collected figurines in the past. She finally discovered the rabbit in her garage.

Once we were able to reassure Bill that his rabbit was safe his frustration lessened,he was much less angry and became more settled.

This lovely story shows us how important it is to never assume that someone is just ‘being difficult’  but that if we can try to find out what really matters to them we can make a huge difference to their lives and ours.

 

How can Talking Mats help in determining capacity?

decisions

This is the second in a two part discussion on decision making and determining capacity, this time looking at how Talking Mats can help. Click here for the previous blog

Where Talking Mats comes into play is by allowing people to consider each option around a decision and then make their decision when they place the symbol under the appropriate top scale. We have found that many people, who would otherwise be judged not to have capacity, can show that they can indeed understand and express their views so that they can be acted upon. Equally our work so far indicates that if someone cannot use Talking Mats this may be an indication that they do not have capacity for that particular decision.

capacity diagram

Talking Mats supports the four criteria which are required in determining mental capacity. The table below lists some of the elements which Talking Mats provides to support each of the 4 criteria.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

TM and capacity

Are these 4 criteria applicable and helpful in your setting?